Turneffe Atoll, Belize
As the most biologically-diverse atoll in the Caribbean, Turneffe Atoll is a truly incredible place. It is a combination of healthy coral reef (both fringing reef and patch corals), expansive back reef flats, large lagoon systems, sea grass beds, and extensive mangrove forest. Turneffe is home to 260 fish species, 77 plant species and 5 spawning aggregation sites. The atoll is of significant economic and sociological significance to Belize as a major commercial fishery and ecotourism center. In addition, the atoll provides Belize City and the mainland coast with essential protection from hurricanes.
The Turneffe Atoll is one of only four coral atolls in the Caribbean. Two others (Lighthouse Atoll and Glover's Atoll) are located in Belize and the fourth is in Southern Mexico. Formation of these coral atolls was accomplished through years of coral buildup rather than by volcanic activity - the more common mechanism of atoll formation. The entire Atoll is surrounded by a fringe coral reef with waters inside the reef varying from less than a foot deep to 30 feet in depth. Ocean depths around the atoll are thought to reach 10,000 feet.
Approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles across, Turneffe has evolved as a model coastal marine ecosystem. This involves the following intimately interrelated habitats; the coral reef, the back reef flats, the sea grass beds, the mangroves and the littoral forest. During your visit you will learn how all of these varied habitats are interrelated and interdependent. You will learn what is required to sustain healthy coral reefs, the functions of the back reef flats, the importance of healthy sea grass beds and the reasons that mangroves are vital to the entire ecosystem.
Ultimately, we hope that you will agree that the unique and special environment of the Turneffe Atoll warrants protection from threats such as over-fishing, over-development and improper development that have decimated much of the coastal ecology in other parts of the world.